An Ode to Quirky Judges and more...

An Ode to Quirky Judges

Justice is blind…and sometimes funny

My wife and I finally started watching the TV series The Good Wife, and we’re hooked. We’ve just finished season 2, and we’re ready to start season 3 despite reading the recent spoiler that Will dies in season 5. That’ll teach us to be late-comers to a great show.

Quirky Judges in The Good Wife

One aspect of The Good Wife that we love are the quirky judges. Like Cook County civil court judge Charles Abernathy, played by Denis O’Hare, who implored those in his courtroom to donate blood, and once said from the bench, ”Can we have a moment of silence for the victims in Darfur?”

Another quirky judge, or perhaps I should say one of the quirker as they all have their quirks on this show, is federal district court judge Patrice Lessner, played by Saturday Night Live alumnus Ana Gasteyer, who likes it when the lawyers in her courtroom preface or follow their statements with “In my opinion,” a favorite qualifying term of the judge’s. Below’s a YouTube video:

The Good Wife (CBS): “In My Opinion”

A lawyer from Cook County comments in the “Television Without Pity” forum about real-life quirky judges from that district:

“I had a judge here who, after all the arguing and fighting was over between the lawyers, would always say something like: ‘Now, it’s a beautiful day out. I hope you’ll all go enjoy it. If you have a dog, maybe you’ll enjoy taking him for a walk. I wish you a happy, relaxing, and calm weekend.’”

Some real-life judges, however, have not been amused at the quirky ones portrayed on this show.

The Good Wife Demeans the Law

In a Huffington Post article, The Good Wife Does More Harm to the Judiciary Than Newt Gingrich, retired federal judge H. Lee Sarokin claims the show harms the judiciary by making them appear to be “fools and idiots” as well as being portrayed as “arrogant and pompous” as well as “deranged.” Judge Sarokin says, “I can only assume that one or more of the writers of this program has had an unpleasant experience with a judge. Otherwise, it is difficult to account for this consistent derogatory portrayal.” The good judge concedes that he might be “overly sensitive.”

Oh, a tad.

Truth is, there really are quirky judges, just as there are quirky lawyers and paralegals and court reporters and process servers and…you get the idea. Heck, if we all believed process servers were like the stoner-servers in The Pineapple Express, it’d be a miracle that anybody got served legal papers.

The Pineapple Express’s stoner servers

Real-Life Quirky Judges

Trust me, they exist. Let’s start with the judge who lost it when someone’s cell phone starting ringing in the courtroom…

The Judge Who Jailed 46 People for a Ringing Cell Phone

In 2005, City Court Judge Robert Restanio in Niagara Falls, New York, jailed nearly four dozen people in his courtroom after no one claimed ownership of a ringing cell phone. Fourteen who were unable to make bail spent several hours in jail, with the judge deciding to release them after learning reporters were inquiring about their incarceration.

This didn’t bode well with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, who called the judge’s actions “a gross deviation from the proper role of a judge” and removed him from the bench. You can read about it here:

“Panel gives judge a ringing rebuke” (CNN.com)

Who Can Forget the Crying Judge?

Remember Judge Larry Seidlin, who cried in the courtroom over the legal controversy in the Anna Nicole Smith’s burial and referred to lawyers by their hometown? According to the Today show, he was shopping around for a reality series (“Anna Nicole judge to get his own TV show?”).

Seidlin resigned from the bench in the summer of 2007.  

I’ve had a few interesting experiences with eccentric judges over the years, too.

Wonder Woman in the Courtroom

Source:Wonder Woman Vector from clipartlogo.com

Years ago, I resigned from my position at the public defender’s office to start my own private law practice. On my last day in court as a public defender, at the end of the day’s docket, the district court criminal judge called me to the bench and groused that I’d forgotten a case. The only people in the courtroom were other public defenders and a woman in a trench coat sitting in the back of the gallery. He called the woman forward, citing a case and number.

As she walked forward, the judge pulled out a boom box from under his bench while the woman tossed off her trench coat (underneath she was dressed as Wonder Woman). As the music boomed, the woman began gyrating. The judge had been secretly asked by my co-workers at the public defender office to help them give me a proper, or not-so-proper, send-off: A stripper dressed as Wonder Woman (why that super-heroine character, I have no idea).

Werewolves in the Courtroom

Another time, a district court judge interrupted  court proceedings to talk about the werewolves that were prowling the courtroom.  In another case, he asked a deputy to take a seat in the jury box so he could be arrested by the local sheriff’s department. Sadly, the judge was suffering from visual and auditory hallucinations caused by toxicity from kidney disease. Eventually, the judicial performance commission had him removed from the bench.

Reading Playboy During a Trial

I once defended a drug cartel member charged with first-degree murder. The state assigned a retired judge to hear this case, which was a tense and contentious trial from day one. The judge was a crusty, cantankerous old fellow who, I learned, had no intention of letting go of his daily habits. At the conclusion of the defense and prosecution’s first meeting in this judge’s chambers, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one. Leaning back in his plush leather chair, he exhaling grandly, then looked at the female prosecutor and asked her, “Do you know where a fella can get a good bottle of booze in this part of town?”

After she gave him the name and location of a local liquor store, he then asked her if she knew whether or not it stocked Playboy magazines, explaining that he’d been sitting on the bench for 35 years, and the trials where he read Playboy during court always went more smoothly.

Yes, this judge read Playboy magazine throughout the trial. Every time the prosecutor and I approached the bench, we’d see the magazine lying open on his desk, unseen by the jury or anyone else.

And yes, the trial went smoothly.

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

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Wheelchair Users: The Dangers of Falling/Tilting

This is a post I wrote today for Guns, Gams and Gumshoes, a website I and my better-half started in 2009 for private investigators, researchers and writers developing sleuth/P.I. characters and stories. Over the years, both of us have written articles about everything from protecting one’s information on the Internet to our favorite private eye characters in movies and books.

But this article is different. I felt strongly I needed to address an uneducated comment made about one of our siblings who must use a wheelchair full time.

Let’s Better Understand What It’s Like for People in Wheelchairs

by Colorado Defense Attorney Shaun Kaufman

One of the Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s sisters is a full-time wheelchair user.  Recently, when her wheelchair began working improperly, and she feared she might fall from her chair, she called 911 for help. Firefighters arrived, cut the power to her chair, and lifted her into a backup wheelchair.  Someone we know thought this was a mis-use of 911 services, and said the wheelchair user should only have called if it had been a “life or death” emergency.

I found this statement to be  ignorant and condescending as the guideline for making a 911 call is if someone is in imminent danger of injury as well as danger of death — for a wheelchair user afraid that he/she might be falling out of their chair, it is indeed a situation of imminent danger that can cause injury, and in fact death, as the majority of wheelchair deaths are the result of the person falling or tilting from the chair. Look, the bottom line for emergency medical intervention is to ameliorate the potential severity of injury.

Falling/Tipping from a Wheelchair: The Most Common Cause of Death

The U.S. National Library of Medicine conducted research of the death certificate database of the National Information Clearinghouse of the Consumer Product Safety Commission over a 15-year period, and identified 770 wheelchair-related deaths. The majority of those deaths, 596 persons or 77.4 %, died as a result from falling from their chairs or tipping over while in them.

Understanding the World of Those Who Use Wheelchairs

Most of us are uncomfortable to some extent with things we don’t know or understand. One of those things might be people who use wheelchairs, and may result in our saying something thoughtless without meaning to. Below are a few articles to aid understanding of those in wheelchairs:

10 Things To Never Say To A Person In A Wheelchair (via HuffPost)

Non Wheelchair User Etiquette (via Apparelyzed)

How to Interact with a Person Who Uses a Wheelchair (via WikiHow)

Save the Wheelchair (a fundraising campaign for the Roll on Capitol Hill)

Thank you, Shaun

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

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ATF Special Agents Sue the Government

ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — on their official website, they still go by the abbreviation ATF) special agent Jay Dobyns worked undercover in the Hell’s Angels gang.  After finishing this undercover job, he and his family received death threats, among other horrific threats, and eventually his Arizona home was burned to the ground while Dobyns was out of town. Fortunately, his wife and children, who were sleeping inside the home, survived.

ATF Field Office Refused to Investigate Fire

Afterward, the ATF agent in charge of Dobyns’s field division did not send any agents to investigate the fire, instead calling the incident a “minor scorching.” Later, ATF supervisors, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, accused Dobyns of starting the fire.  He filed a lawsuit against the government for failing to address serious threats and retaliation against him.

On February 20, 2014, Dobyns wrote about his experience on his Facebook page:

I have been accused of being selfish, a narcissist and an shameful self promoter. With some honest self reflection those criticisms maybe, and probably are true. But I assure you, nothing that has come from this suit I am proud of. It has been degrading and humiliating and embarrassing…

To read more on his Facebook page, click here.

“The Agency Has Lost Its Way,” Claims ATF Agent

Another ATF agent, Vincent Ceflau is also suing the government, and believes his and Dobyn’s’ cases are connected. “The agency has lost its way,” says Ceflau, “and has been unable to accept responsibility and unable to right the track.”

Closing arguments in Dobyn’s case were in late February. Judge Allegra has said he will have a decision as soon as possible, which given the complexity of the case will take several months at least.

Dobyn has a quote on his Facebook page: Never Push a Loyal Person to the Point Where They Don’t Give a Damn. Not sure why he posted that quote as he was pushed, hard, and yet he still gives a damn.

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

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In Honor of Pink Shirt Day: Tips for Legally Stopping Bullying

Bullying is an intentional act–be it verbal, nonverbal or physical–meant to cause harm to others.  Today, February 26, is Pink Shirt Day in Canada, a protest against bullying that was started by a couple of high school boys who handed out pink shirts to their peers in school after a new kid, a 9th grade boy, was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school.

Wear a Pink Shirt to Protest Bullying

In honor of Pink Shirt Day, I’m posting an excerpt from the article “How to Legally Stop Bullying” written by my webmaster and better half, Colleen Collins — the link to the complete article is at the end of the excerpt.

How to Legally Stop Bullying

by Colleen Collins for eHow

Bullying can occur at school or in the workplace. The harassment can be verbal (name calling), non-verbal (mimicking a disability) or physical (offensive gestures). Both children and adults can take steps to legally stop bullying, from the more immediate protection of a restraining order to the longer process of pursuing a lawsuit.

  • Report the bullying at school. The child being bullied, a friend of the child, a witness to the bullying or a parent can file the report. The individual can file the report through a teacher, school counselor, vice principal or principal. Most schools have policies and designated personnel in place, including law enforcement, for either remedying the situation, working with the bully’s family or commencing legal action against the bully.
  • Document the bullying at work. Work harassment is a legal offense under the federal employment discrimination laws. To strengthen a case, either the person being harassed or a co-worker who witnessed the bullying needs to document (through written reports and, when possible, photographs, video or audio recording) each of the occurrences (using dates, locations and witnesses).
  • Follow your employer’s anti-harassment policies. Contact the Human Resources Department for a copy of these policies.
  • File a restraining order. If you believe your harasser might cause you harm or violate your privacy, you can request an attorney to obtain, draft and serve a restraining order, or you can do it yourself. To find a qualified attorney, contact your county bar association. Make an appointment, and bring along your documentation of events and actions to stop the bullying.
To read the full article, click here.

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

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Drunk Driving Laws and Sobriety Checkpoint Laws by State

Every state in the U.S. determines that a person driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at 0.08 percent or higher is a crime. Each state also has ignition interlock laws. Specifics to other state DUI laws, and to whether or not they conduct DUI checkpoints, are in the below tables.

Drunk Driving Laws Table

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) provides a table, including links to each state, that further defines license suspensions for first offenses, additional vehicle and license plate sanctions, open container laws and more. To review this table, click here.

Sobriety Checkpoint Laws Table

Not all states conduct sobriety checkpoints, also called DUI checkpoints. The GHSA outlines which states conduct sobriety checkpoints, how often and if how they are legally upheld (or not). To review this table, click here.

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

Latest posts by Kaufman (see all)

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